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Gödöllő is located about 30 km from Budapest, but many people tend to forget the beauty of the capital’s agglomeration. Located in the Gödöllő Hills, in the valley of the Rákos Creek, this city has must-see attractions that can be wandered around over a weekend: one thing is sure, this city is a real recharge.
History of Gödöllő
The city was first mentioned in written form in 1349 by such names as Gudulleu and Gödöle, and only since 1868 has it been officially called Gödöllő.
During the Turkish times, the city was completely destroyed and later on successfully re-populated. In the 18th century, Gödöllő became the center of the estates of the Habsburg officer, Antal Grassalkovich, who also built a castle here using the Reformed church. The most important monuments of the city are almost all related to his name.
The city played an important role during the 1848 War of Independence, for example, Lajos Kossuth wrote the Declaration of Independence here. The Gödöllő Castle later became Queen Elizabeth’s (Sisi) favorite holiday destination, which, of course, brought a quick evolution to the city. And the cult of Sisi, which we stumble upon when we are in town.
Throughout history, many powers have been established in the city, such as the Chief of the Red Army or Miklós Horthy. However, the castle is still the venue for many important events.
Sights in Gödöllő
Of course, the main attraction of the city is the Grassalkovich Castle, which must be included in the list. This is one of the largest Baroque Castles in Hungary.
The palace and its building ensemble, whose plans were made by András Mayerhoffer were at the instance of Antal Grassalkovich. This building is one of the most remarkable monuments of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, since Queen Elizabeth, Sisi loved to spend her free time there. The double-U shape of the castle and its seven wings were built in several steps, and between 1782 and 1785, there was even a theater in the southern wing.
Over the years, many residents have relocated here: During World War II, it worked as a summer residence for Governor Miklós Horthy, and later served as a Soviet barracks and social home, which eventually led to the destruction of the building.
Eventually, the castle began to be renovated in 1990 and since 1996, visitors have been able to admire the once lively location.
If we want to learn more about the history of the castle, then we shouldn’t miss the Castle Museum, where a permanent exhibition shows the different ages of the place. However, the castle park is free to visit and definitely worth a walk.
Gödöllő Baroque Theater
The sights in the building are not over yet. We can also visit the already mentioned Gödöllő Baroque theater. The theater, located in the south wing of the castle, was formed by the dismantling of the former three-story building wing and can accommodate about 100 people.
Unfortunately, its operation ceased to exist after the Compromise of 1867. Its specialty is that it is the only backstage system theater in Hungary, which is a rarity in Europe as well.
We can see the less romantic, but more interesting part of the castle too, which is the Horthy bunker. This is where the construction of a bomb-proof bunker for the governor and his family began in 1944.
The bunker is about 10 meters under the ground, with 170 cm thick reinforced concrete walls and can accommodate 20 people.
Applied Arts Workshop
Of course, there are attractions outside the castle too, such as the Applied Arts Workshop. It is a nationally and globally recognized art group, which was founded in 1998.
The aim of the workshop is to revitalize the spirit of the former Gödöllő Colony of Artists and to integrate it into contemporary art, education, and areas of international relations. Exhibitions are open continuously to visitors.
In the City Museum, we get a unified picture of the evolution of Gödöllő’s cityscape within the framework of a great exhibition. In addition, the exhibition is housed in the former Hamvay mansion, which is why it is worth visiting the museum.
During the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, a hotel which was located here was named after Queen Elizabeth, which soon became the center of social life. It was once the site of a casino, balls, dance parties, and theater performances.
So life was busy here; they couldn’t have found a better place for the exhibition. And if we get hungry in the middle of a lot of cultures or want to take part in shopping in a market, we can do it because the museum courtyard gives home to the city market.
Saint Stephen University (Szent István Egyetem)
Indeed, the city even has a university, not like any others. The Szent István University was launched in 2000 with the integration of several educational institutions, but it isn’t only worth the attention because of its high-quality education.
The gymnasium in the southern part of the building was completed first, and later the Educational Institute was built. During World War II, the building was bombed and later became a military hospital. Today, it is one of the top-quality agricultural universities in the country, which has grown into a small university town.
The botanical garden gives home to nearly 1400 species of plants and was the first agro botanical garden in the country. Its collection includes 150 exotic plant species. In the center of the garden, the Old Wild Pear Tree was the winner of the 2013 Tree of the Year competition and came second in the European Tree of the Year competition.
And when it comes to nature, it is definitely worth mentioning the Gödöllő Arboretum, which was created in 1902 to naturalize plant species, which are not found in large numbers in the country, especially pines.
The park has a total of 147 pines and 875 deciduous trees and shrubs. Initially, the 190-hectare area had grown to 350 hectares, 90 percent of which was for research purposes only and 10 percent was park-like. Thanks to a large-scale planting program, the species of trees found today have almost doubled.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the city certainly bears the traces of the former monarchy, especially with regard to Queen Sisi, so it is not surprising that we find a park named after her in Gödöllő. The park was created after the Queen’s death, as a memorial park and directly accessible from the castle.
There are botanical specialties in the park and, of course, at the end of the promenade, there is a statue of Elizabeth. The rock group behind the statue was also made in memory of the queen, which brook’s once drifted from both sides.
Have a trip here in Gödöllő
If we are looking for more green in nature after a sightseeing tour, there are still many opportunities for us. The Gödöllő hills are about 150-250 meters above sea level and are mostly covered with loess and sand.
Its highest point is the Margita Peak, which is 345 meters from the ground, on top of which we can admire the view from a cylindrical lookout tower. It has a large stock of large-wildlife. It’s marshland and the Mezse marsh extend all the way to the edge of the 17th district of Budapest.
There is no natural lake in the area of Gödöllő, but if we still want a water experience, we should visit Lake Úrréti on the outskirts of the city. It is a small fishing lake on almost 1 hectare.
Why do I recommend this city?
I know it sounds commonplace to call a city a little jewelry box, but if there is a place that fits this adjective, then it’s Gödöllő. A wonderful little town with many great attractions, let it be the castle, the museum or the surrounding area.
If we spend a little time here, we will understand why Gödöllő has become one of Sissi’s favorite places. And we should believe the queen, right?